Alternative Baking is a hot topic these days! As many of you have discovered, taking out grains and sugar in a baking recipe can be a real challenge.
While there is no way around trial and error, there are some tips to increase your chances of a moist, flavorful baked good worthy of calling a family favorite! I was once in your shoes. Here’s the scenario, see if you can relate: I see this fantastic recipe on the internet and I decide to just replace the sugar with stevia and the white flour for almond flour. I spend money getting all these healthy ingredients and then time putting the recipe together. I wait with anticipation as it bakes in the oven…. my mouth watering to taste a muffin for the first time in months. Finally the timer goes off, I pull the muffins out and…. well they haven’t risen at all and they are uncooked in the middle. Ok, no problem, I’ll cook them longer. Nope that wasn’t good either, now they are dry and crumbly….and not to mention, hardly edible. I’m heartbroken. Then to make it worse my husband walks in, “I’m so excited for those muffins! Where are they?
Yes, I’ve been there and I know so many of you have as well. So this month, just in time for Valentine’s Day, I’m going to give you a few tips to transform a traditional baking recipe into Phase 1 or Phase 2. Who said Phase 1 is limited? Cakes, cookies, muffins and bread can all be transformed into a mouthwatering addition to this way of eating!
Tip 1: Baking is a science – Now I don’t claim to be an expert baker myself, but luckily baking isn’t as much about skill as it is science (it’s chemistry). You need to have certain ingredients in order for certain reactions to take place.Here’s what I mean. The most common mistake is to substitute out the sugar in a recipe for an alternative sugar like stevia or xylitol. Sugar is an acidic ingredient (any type, including honey). Sugar creates a chemical reaction with the baking soda to make the baked good rise. (Think grade-school science experiment – baking soda and vinegar volcano)
If you don’t add in an acid to replace the sugar then the recipe will be a flop, literally… it won’t rise. So instead of sugar here are some healthy choices to use as a replacement: lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, coconut vinegar, yogurt or cocoa powder. Usually 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar works perfect in most baking recipes to react with the baking soda and it doesn’t impart any taste.
Tip 2: How to get the perfect sugar taste. I personally do not like powdered stevia. To my taste buds, it leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. Powdered stevias are furthermore often mixed with corn derivatives and other highly processed bulking agents to make them more user-friendly. Not a healthy option in my opinion. Also remember, not all brands are created equal- there are differences in taste and potency. I only use liquid stevia. My 2 favorite brands are KAL and NuNaturals. Just to get an idea of how much liquid stevia to use:
1 cup of sugar = 1 teaspoon liquid stevia.
Since there is such a drastic difference in amounts, you might need to adjust the liquid to dry ingredient ratio.
As far as sweeteners go I like to use a mix of stevia and xylitol for the perfect sugar taste without any sugar. Or for Phase 2 stevia and honey. I use xylitol very sparingly. While it does have antifungal properties, it is a highly processed ingredient and does not agree well with everyone. I try to never add more than ¼ cup to a recipe. If you still want to use sugar in a recipe, cut it in half and add some liquid stevia to lessen the amount you have to use.
Tip 3: Baking is precise. Measurements matter and not using the proper type of measuring cup can affect the outcome of the recipe. For dry ingredients it is important to measure them in a dry measuring cup, yes there is a difference! Dry measuring cups are the ones nested into each other. They are meant to be filled right up to the top (not packed down) and then leveled off with a straight edge of some sort. Liquid measuring cups generally have a pour spout and are made to be filled to the gradations on the side of the cup.
Tip 4: Alternative flours have different properties and can NOT be substituted one for one for traditional flour – some alternative flours are heavier than others, some absorb more liquids… they all have different strengths and weaknesses that creates a need to use multiple types of gluten-free/grain-free flours to mimic the taste and texture we are most accustomed to. But remember that not all gluten-free flours are Phase 1 friendly. Try to stay away from corn flour, corn starch, corn meal, potato starch, rice flour and sorghum flour (it’s a cereal grain) to name a few.
A good way to think about your flour choices is by texture; heavy and light. As I said above you need a blend of heavy flours with some lighter ones to get the texture of traditional baked goods. I tend to stick to the heavier flours and forego the lighter texture in lieu of more nutrition. I have become fond of a hearty baked good. It satisfies me much more, so I eat less…. because moderation is still key with these Phase 1 baked goods. So here is a rundown of some of the heavy and light flour options you can experiment with.
Heavy flours: buckwheat, quinoa, nut flours (like almond flour) and coconut flour
Light flours – tapioca starch and arrowroot starch
My Favorite Flours:
Blanched Almond Flour – this is my very favorite due to its neutral taste and great texture. I often use 100% blanched almond flour when creating recipes with great results. Blanched means the skins have been removed. Although I love using food in its most natural, whole form – blanched makes it not as heavy, so the recipe turns out less dense and more like a traditional baked good.
Coconut Flour – needs a lot of eggs to bind and it absorbs a ton of liquid. I personally do not like 100% coconut flour recipes, but I do love to add a few tablespoons into recipes.
Buckwheat Flour – I love buckwheat flour too! I don’t ever use 100% but to me it is very neutral tasting and I love adding it in with almond or coconut flour. It’s also a complete protein, so that’s a plus.
Tapioca and Arrowroot Flour/Starch – these are both derived from a starchy root, not a grain. As I said above, I tend to stick to the heavier flours and forego the lighter texture in lieu of more nutrition. These are very processed to me, they are bright white, which is a red flag in my mind. But I do think they are a great option in moderation to get a lighter texture for certain recipes. I use them both interchangeably on occasion. Tapioca flour is less expensive.
Quinoa or Amaranth Flour – these tend to have a stronger flavor, so use in small amounts for added nutrition. Both are a complete protein.
Tip 5: Dairy-free substitutes. This is a whole article in itself, but here are a few of my favorite options.
Butter substitutes: Coconut oil or olive oil are great substitutes for butter, if you need to eliminate dairy for some reason. Coconut oil is a secret ingredient I use in sweet baked goods because it’s a superfood with potent antifungal properties and adds a subtle sweet taste that people just can’t put their finger on, but absolutely love!
Dairy milk substitutes: Canned coconut milk or unsweetened nut milk is a perfect substitution for dairy milk. I’ve never had a problem substituting this one for one in a baking recipe. If you want a more neutral tasting milk use almond or cashew milk. Coconut milk has a sweet taste, which I love, so I often use this most often.
Tip 6: It is easy to over-bake. There’s nothing worse than dry cookies, cake and muffins. The center of alternative baked goods often may appear too soft while the outside edges are browned just right; I usually take it out of the oven at that point, the baked good will continue to “bake” for a minute or two before it begins to cool.
Tip 7: Get an oven thermometer! Speaking of over-baking, you’d be surprised that most ovens do not cook at the actual temperature that it is set at. Many are off an average of 25 degrees! This can make a big difference in whether your recipe turns out or not. An oven thermometer will insure you are baking your recipe at the proper temperature, helping to promote a successful outcome.
Tip 8: Remove cakes, muffins and loaves from the pan as soon as possible. The longer a grain-free baked good remains in a hot pan, the soggier it gets.
Tip 9: Freezing Phase 1 baked goods often improves the texture. Think your cookies or brownies are a dud? Try cutting, wrapping and freezing them in parchment paper and a Ziploc bag. Eat slightly chilled or at room temperature. I can’t tell you how many recipes I thought were horrible, but my stubbornness refused to let me throw them away, so in the freezer they went. I either ended up liking them frozen just the way they were or I would crumble them up and use them sprinkled in yogurt or some other dessert type recipe for my sweet creations and for my dud bread recipes I crumble and toast them and they often work great as bread crumbs!
Tip 10: Use more vanilla. For my sweet recipes I always double the vanilla. Alternative flours can taste strong and foreign to the pallet. A little extra vanilla helps offset and soften their flavor.
Even with these tips, alternative baking is a challenge. One little thing changed or substituted can have a huge impact on the overall outcome. I’ve just focused on a few aspects. A whole book could be written on this subject, but for the average baker these tips will catapult you to having much success with your Phase 1 and Phase 2 baked good makeovers.
Don’t miss Know the Cause on February 18th for a segment describing these baking tips and on February 27th a muffin recipe with icing! Tell your friends…you won’t want to miss it! But if you do, watch it online at www.knowthecause.com